Vice President Joe Biden arrived in India Monday with wife Jill Biden for a four-day visit to promote diplomatic and economic relations. United States officials said they don't expect to see many signed deals come out of the trip, but Biden's time in India lays the groundwork for a summit between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Obama this fall in Washington.
His visit also comes at an important juncture for relations between the two countries. Right now, the United States wants India to grant greater access to American firms. India has required foreign companies operating in the country to accept almost unlimited liability for accidents, all but ruling out American participation. Plus, United States companies have grown frustrated over a landmark nuclear deal that didn't deliver the profitable contracts it promised to.
India, on the other hand, is concerned about the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan next year, fearing the potential return of Taliban post-withdrawal. India is also worried about proposals in Congress that would curb visas for high-tech workers.
Biden is the first vice president to visit India in three decades. After landing, he visited a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, writing in the visitors' book that it was an "honor and great privilege" to see a museum "memorializing one man who changed the world." Biden also traveled to Mumbai, India's financial capital, to meet business leaders and deliver a speech on the economy Wednesday.
"I would ask you to consider the historic opportunity that we have here," Biden said during the speech. "Imagine what our two countries can achieve together, not only for one another but for the economic and political stability of the region... India is no longer an economic island and will continue to rise as an economic power. However significant challenges and problems persist. It is time we take this relationship to a new level to achieve our shared vision."
Trade the United States and India has grown from $9 billion in 1995 to nearly $100 billion this year. During President Obama's landmark visit to India in November 2010, he said that Washington and Delhi's relationship would be one of the century's defining partnerships.